Senate Bill 97 takes up the issue of whether Alaska should continue state funding of public art projects, especially given the current budget crisis.
The public art program has a controversial history, as many of the pieces are incomprehensible or fail to reflect broad community values. The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, is set for a hearing on March 5, 3:30 p.m., in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Wilson’s statement on the bill argues that art is best when it springs from sources other than the state.
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“At a time when all departments are facing reductions, we simply cannot continue to subsidize art with our limited resources,” Wilson said. “Ralph Waldo Emerson declared that ‘Beauty will not come at the call of the legislature … It will come, as always, unannounced, and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men.’ Alaskans highly value the beauty that creative minds produce to inspire us all. I have no doubt that the art of our great state will continue to flourish with support from individuals and private-sector charitable giving.”
In 1975, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill requiring the expenditure of one percent of the capital construction costs of public buildings for the acquisition and permanent installation of artwork. Senate Bill 97 would repeal the statute.
From 2007 to 2018, the state has spent $13,844,894 for public art, an average of $1,153,741 a year.
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